Favorite Fictional Characters, #308: Rod Tidwell
1996's Jerry Maguire is not without flaws, but it's an entertaining movie. Tom Cruise's Jerry is sympathetic as he falls to earth, Renee Zellweger is fresh and adorable as single mom Dorothy, and just the right amount of sports cameos (Drew Bledsoe!) are sprinkled in to give the film verisimilitude. I like Jerry - his frenetic energy, his willingess to debase himself, his perpetual confusion. He's hanging on by a very thin thread, and I dig that about him. But it's clearly Cuba Gooding, Jr.'s movie, and his ebullient pro receiver Rod Tidwell seizes control of the screen and doesn't let go throughout. He's joyous, he's mercurial, he's a devoted family man, he's a prima donna, he's thoughtful - he's a complex and yet a simple man; all he wants is everything. The Kwan, as he puts it, the whole package: love, respect, community (and yes, money).
The plot weaves Rod's quest for stardom and financial security with Jerry and Dorothy's improbable love story. Some of the best parts of the movie are those that highlight the strength of Rod's marriage to his long-suffering, alpha female wife Marcee. She adores him and tolerates him in equal measure, and protects him with the fierce tenacity of a lioness. It's a relationship with fire and passion and mutual support, and serves as the apotheosis of love that Jerry and Dorothy are looking for. One of the messages (and director Cameron Crowe loves his messages) is that love at first sight pales next to love earned over years in the trenches together, built stone by agonizing stone.
Maybe it shouldn't be that hard, but it is. You show someone the money, you can have them at hello, maybe you can even complete them, but you have to put in the time and the commitment. Nothing comes easy, nothing comes free - not success, not money, not fame, and not love. It is an up-at-dawn, pride-swallowing siege I will never fully tell you about.
I met Cuba Gooding, Jr. in New Orleans in 1997. I told him I enjoyed his work, and he thanked me for not yelling at him to show me the money. At least I think that's what he said. I was in New Orleans and I was 22, you do the math.